the go board
can be made of any material, but traditionally, a solid wooden block has been the most prized. It is about 42 x 45 cm and 17 cm tall. With the feet, this gives a comfortable playing height when sitting on the floor. For use at a table, a thinner board is necessary.
My relationship with the game of Go began many decades ago in Seattle. I had read about the four traditional arts of ancient China: qin (the guqin, a stringed instrument. 琴), qi (the strategy game of Go, 棋), shu (Chinese calligraphy 書) and hua (Chinese painting 畫). When I found a simple Go set in a game store, I knew nothing about it and had no one to ask. Yet I persisted, and as the years passed I became utterly intrigued by the way it combines a spiritual training of the mind and an opportunity to understand human nature.
As we know, the aim of Go is to build and live, as opposed to wanting to kill the King in Chess. This peaceful, non-violent aspect of the game is profound and provocative to me. After a visit to Japan as an invited Go guest, I began to understand the physical beauty of the game. The Gobans, Bowls, Stones and Cushions are an expression of spiritual harmony and beauty. When I discovered a supplier of these treasures, here in my new home in Australia, I realised I could put my past experience of fine woodworking to use and bring these antique pieces back to life. Renovating, repairing, sanding, re-printing, oiling and polishing has taken many months of detailed devotion. Transformed from the years sitting in storage, the stains and dirt removed, each surface carefully and lovingly tended to, these bowls and boards once again approach their original condition.
These are treasures that are now seldom found in the world. They can never be reproduced, as the original Kaya trees and Clam shells are basically extinct. I have sought long and hard for other sources without success. So please understand, these are unique and entirely wonderful pieces. When these items are sold, this site will be on hold unless I can find replacement items. (I will keep looking for more, but with no guarantee of success.)
All of the gobans shown here are used, and were made in Japan. Thus I cannot prove conclusively what type of wood they are made from. The ones that I do label I am certain of, but if you require proof, then you should probably read no further. If instead you are still interested, your decision can only be based on the photographs and detailed descriptions.
Most of these boards, when they were first made, were finished with a laquer that included a stain, giving them a uniform color appearance. You could still see the grain, but you could not easily see the natural variations in the wood. A few of them were also probably in storage for many years, and developed mold problems. One had been used as a table, with a glass ring stain obvious. So when I began sanding, I didn’t know what I would find.
As some of the photos make obvious, these boards, like most wood, have knots and color variations. In new commercial gobans, stains are used to conceal these. Instead, I decided to use a clear oil finish that shows all of the original wood grain. They have been completely sanded down to bare wood, and then relined and refinished with at least seven coats of Livos natural oil. In my judgement, they are “better than new” because they allow the beauty of the wood to shine through. Some of the original stain jobs were almost like paint, completely concealing the “imperfections” of the wood.
Only one of the boards has a small but stable open crack. Most of them are quite old, 50-200 years, and are in no danger of damage from drying.
Because the original conditions of the boards varied so much, not all of them are now totally smooth. Some had deep flaws. The indentations or knots that remain are quite small and would not distract during play. The biggest differences of course are in the grain colors and patterns. Caution: Do not seek perfection here.